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A Bit of Commercial Embroidery

There’s been some talk on sewing boards lately about folks wanting to buy a commercial embroidery machine. I’ll share what I did yesterday, for most of the afternoon.

It reads, “Casa Di Mir”, a school’s name. This stitchout is 1 9/16″, or 4 cm, wide by 1/4″, or 7 mm high. It is embroidered onto a pocket top fold 4″ x 1″. I’ve also embroidered a design above the pocket. The customer chose the design, one of two that I’ve digitized for sale. I’m not prolific at digitizing.

I’ve read that this is one of the toughest job in the embroidery biz: creating personalized pockets. It looks so simple but this little name took me 2 hours to create and stitch out. I charge $10 to add a name and personally feel that that is too high. But I’ve had a few takers at that price. I think I’ll leave it at $10 and reduce the number of letters from 15 to 10. This one is 11 including the spaces and I barely got it to fit and still be readable. I had to move the letters around because the I in DI and MIR became indistinct from a distance. Seeing this photo, I think I should have done it differently! And I notice that the fabric stretched a bit out of shape during the hooping. Bleh, it’s not easy being perfect when you have a critical eye.

First I had to find a font that would allow the name to be readable and would conform to the customer’s standards of using approved lettering styles. The customer is a school and they are particular about lettering styles, nothing cute, please. The wearer will be an example to little people learning to write. OK, so first meet the customer’s standards. I chose a small block font and decreased the density of the stitches to 40. That was even a little too dense.

The Second Challenge is to get the embroidery onto the pocket without removing the it. Much easier to add the embroidery during the construction of the shirt.

Here’s is the machine I’m using for the commercial embroidery. It is a Toyota ESP9000, a single head with 15 needles and supposedly portable. At 185 lbs, the most portable I’m going to make it is pushing it around on it’s wheeled stand.

The 15 needles come in handy when you are doing multiple colors or many different single designs. Last Christmas I decided to embroider shirts for 18 employees, using stock designs and customizing them to show in thread each person’s inner dreams, if possible. This is much easier to do than a personalized pocket. Here are a few of the test stitchouts so you can see how beautiful the embroidery can be.

All of these designs were stitched above the pocket and in the end most used different colors: it all depended on the design. All of these are stock designs, I didn’t digitize them, but wish I did have the necessary skills. Ah, well. I’ll be paying for this machine a long time so I’ll have time to learn. This was fun embroidery and a big hit as Christmas presents.

But back to personalizing a pre-existing pocket. You have to make a space between the pocket and the shirt it’s sewn on to so that you don’t embroider the pocket shut. That requires a frame that can slip into the pocket opening, leaving enough fabric so that the embroidery head can punch out the lettering in between. This is the frame:

Here the frame is loaded onto the machine and the needle and stitch plate can be seen.

Here I’m trying to show is how the shirt body must be in front and below the pocket front. You don’t want to stitch the pocket closed! Ripping out is a terrible pain.

So, what is a 4″ wide pocket opening functionally becomes a 2″ wide stitching area and that’s further reduced by the need to not strike the frame with the needle. The recommendation is to stay .25″ away from the edges of your frame but I do try to fit as much in as possible. You functionally end up with 1.5″ in which to stitch.
Here’s another personalization that has 6 letters and is much easier to read when worn. I’ve loaded it onto the frame just to show you the spacing, if this were a real stitchout you’d have stabilizer and the design would be centered more carefully within the frame. It takes careful placement to avoid having the needle strike the frame.

I’m really sure this is not how I want to make my living but I’m glad to do it for my company customers. As a single head operator I’m happy to have commercial embroidery just be a part time thing.


About Mary Beth

I am fascinated by changing patterns and colored threads. I sew garments and am teaching myself to machine knit. Since selling the building that housed my workrooms, The Stitchery, I'm searching for a place to set up the knitting machines again. There must be room here somewhere!

10 responses »

  1. You’re a better person than I am, MB! I embroider on the pocket for one customer only – an orthodontist for whom I do a ton of scrubs every year. I charge him nearly $20 to remove, embroider (a 2×3″ logo) and reattach each pocket. And the logo has to be off to one side so that he can put pens in the pocket too. 🙂 This is definitely not a money maker for me but a little something extra I do for a good customer. Luckily, he sends me a half-dozen dress shirts only about once a year!

  2. Thanks MaryBeth for some inside information about embroidery. The test stitchouts embroidery you did for the employees looks gorgeous . I sure can understand that it was abig hit last Christmas.The price tag for name embroidery for $10.00 is not at all a high price, I find it cheap considering the time involved to do all the work.

  3. I agree with els, you need to rethink your $10 fee … there is a lot of detail work in setting up the machine just right. Thanks for the info on this … custom emrboidery is an area I sometimes consider going into (until I see the price tag of the machines, that is!).

  4. Fascinating post, on a topic I am clueless about.Love all the little stitchouts

  5. Fascinating indeed! Thanks so much for posting this — I had no idea what was involved. I think $20 is too low!!

  6. I’ve always wondered what those special pocket hoops look like!

  7. I have some little things that I could send over for next time you need to test…. just kidding. It does look like alot of work to set this baby up!–>

  8. Please can anyone help me understand what is high quality logo stitch counts versus normal embroidery? Like what would “Titlelist”, “Nike”, or “Ping” use on their baseball csps?

  9. Andrew: check your email. I sent you a message with info that might answer your question!

  10. Pingback: Everything You Should Know About Nodes | Shirley Casselman's Blog

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